9/11 Ten Years Later

September 11, 2001 was our 24th wedding anniversary. 

A sign in an airport in Europe
I went to the office like any other work day. My wife and I were unsure about our dinner plans to celebrate but I assumed we would talk after lunch and pick a place to eat or perhaps we would eat at home and I would make something special like my world class crab cakes.

I worked at the time as EVP Marketing for GoodMark Foods a snack food company based in Raleigh, North Carolina. My marketing team was heading up to NYC for a promotional event we were sponsoring in conjunction with the NBA’s Hoop It Up 3 on 3 program. Britt Carter, our PR account executive was traveling with Randy Savage (AKA Macho Man) to the site in the city. We had been planning this event for some time and I was going to head up to New York later that week. We had a music festival that was kicking off too and I believe we had some bands who were also going to be provided music to promote our brand. 

The event was scheduled to take place at the base of the Twin Towers on Friday September 14th, 2001. 

Around 9:00 am, a colleague came into my office and mentioned they heard that a plane had crashed into one of the towers and I immediately thought that our event would get cancelled. I assumed like most people that the plane was a small commuter plane that somehow got lost and off course. My team had recently put together a marketing conference room that looked like a Starbucks. It had comfortable sofas, low lighting and a big TV to show off our marketing events. People slowly started huddling in this coffee colored space as we watch in horror the unfolding events of the day.

My memory is not crystal clear on this but I recall getting a phone call from Britt that he and Randy landed unexpectedly in Maryland. Somehow they managed to get a rental car in Baltimore and they were driving South. Britt lived in Raleigh and Randy in Tampa.  Needless to say, they didn’t get into New York and fortunately none of my team team had departed for the event. We were too numb to think as we all watched in shock as the other two planes hit the Pentagon and crashed in Pennsylvania. 

                    From ABC News and Peter Jennings Reporting on September 11, 2001

What I recall vividly is watching Peter Jennings of ABC News talking and reporting and not realizing the South Tower had fallen.  As he was talking, we saw one of the buildings starting to buckle and crumble right before our eyes. A reporter almost 20 seconds later informed him that what he saw fall and create a plume was the building. It was a shocking moment. 

September 11th was a frozen day. It is difficult to look back. Last week, my Mom reminded me how in the fall of 1971, my Dad took us down to the construction area to see the hole that was being built to support these two behemoth buildings. We took pictures, of course and probably spent a nice day in the city having dinner somewhere special like Trader Vics.   Dad often reminded me of visiting this site as he enjoyed watching all the work and the extraordinary size of the buildings. 
Twin Towers Construction Site from 1971

Original Site of World Trade Center from 1971
Who could imagine the scene 30 years later when the world witnessed this disaster? 

Like November 22, 1963, there is a burned image that has singed me forever.  Although a witness through TV, I felt as if I was standing in NY that day with the victims and their families. It was such a jolt reminding me how quickly life can take a turn that no one can see coming. That day made me want to hold my wife, my daughters, my family and my friends just a little closer. Tears flowed without control and the days had an odd sense of timelessness as if it is a memory stuck in a time warp. Surreal doesn't begin to describe the moments spent watching and absorbing all that occurred. 

Being alive is such a gift that we can easily forget to celebrate and acknowledge each and every day. In my heart, I feel it so clearly that we are all just passing through and being present in the moment keeps us connected.